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NextGen Training Procedure

NextGen Training Program

The staff at ZNY do our very best to help you, our controllers and students the best way we can to ensure you have a smooth and good experience progressing through the levels, and earning new certifications.

Our current training program is based on a system built in the late 2000s, modified every couple of years, but with NextGen, we’re introducing the largest change in how students progress through the levels - ever!

VATSIM has always markedly itself as a “learning environment”, and the goal is that both pilots and controllers should be able to learn as you go, on the network. With NextGen, we’ve spent over six months redesigning our training program from the ground up trying to accommodate for exactly that, learning as you go. We are not going to be expecting you to be perfect on day one, but instead our idea is to let you to practice what you learn, on the network, as you go.

Progression Path

Before we talk about the new system, a bit of back story. Since the Virtual New York ARTCC was founded in 2002, ZNY has had a concept of four major airports, where new controllers were assigned to one of the four majors as a starting facility, at random to even out the number of controllers between facilities, and not swarm everyone at JFK.

Although we never announced this publicly, this concept has been changed twice in the last 3-4 years. Beginning in 2017, after a pretty significant number of bad feedback from pilots over a long time, we stopped assigning JFK as a first facility, as JFK had a significantly higher number of pilots than the other fields, and new controllers struggled with keeping up with that workload on their first facility. Additionally, last year we stopped assigning PHL as a first facility. This was not because of feedback or controller competency, but a combination of two things: we had very limited training staff capacity at PHL, meaning students were forced to wait multiple weeks for training sessions. Additionally, we had a desire to improve the training path completely, and because of that, the end result was that we were left with only EWR and LGA as first facilities.

As of today, this system goes out the window.

New Students

Any new student joining ZNY from today, will begin a new path, on a completely rebuilt training path, with new scenarios and learning goals, with more varied, condensed and more relaxed sessions that will help you, the new controller learn all aspects of controlling.

Training will be done at a combination of Allentown, Philadelphia, Islip and Trenton airports, giving us the opportunity to not just focus on the Class B, N90 airports, which have very specific and overwhelming procedures, but instead focus on the basics of controlling first. The basic training is designed to allow you to go from a brand new controller with an OBS rating to an S3 in a much shorter amount of time than in the past. Our sweatbox sessions are much shorter scenarios, and we don’t expect you to be perfect on your first attempt, but instead allow you to learn as you go, on the network.

(Click here to view full-size version of flowchart)

Once you’re done with your S3 training, you’ll move on to the major airports, where you will be assigned to one of the three majors, JFK, EWR or LGA. Yes, we’re once again assigning JFK as a first major facility, but this time around, students have an existing set of knowledge and skill when you get there. Again, we’re using the same ideas of shorter scenarios and allowing you to practice on the network, and don’t expect you to be able to push a maximum number of airplanes an hour before you’re allowed to work on the network.

Again, we expect the time between certifications to be lower for the average student, and controllers that do a lot of self study and practice should be able to fly through the majors.

Existing Students

For existing students, you’ll be grandfathered into the program, and how things change for you will depend on what stage in your training you are currently at.

S1 - Ground Students

If you’re an S1 student, you’ll jump straight into the new training program and all the benefits that it offers for new students. You will be assigned the Philadelphia Practice Clearances as soon as a staff member can get to it and need to study the PHL SOP and PHL CBT Videos on your own. You will enter the Level 2 training flow as usual after taking your ZNY and VATUSA S2 exams (if these were not already taken). Your Philadelphia Ground knowledge will be subject to examination during your Level 2 training and at the end of your Level 2 training, you will receive your Philadelphia CAB certs.

S2 - Local Control Students

If you’re a TWR controller, you’ll join the training program at the Intro To TRACON level. Your Level 1 and 2 certifications are grandfathered, however you will have to complete a single Philadelphia CAB checkout, allowing you to work PHL DEL, GND and TWR before you can complete a Level 3 OTS with an Instructor. You’ll be assigned the PHL Practice Clearances and Tower Exam as soon as a staff member can get to it and need to study the PHL SOP and PHL CBT Videos on your own. These exams may be taken at any time before the Philadelphia Combined CAB checkout. In essence, the Philadelphia CAB training and Level 3 training can happen either synchronously or asynchronously, but the Philadelphia CAB checkout must occur before you can have a Level 3 OTS with an instructor.

S3 - TRACON Students

This one is the level where what will happen will vary depending on the student. All S3 TRACON students have the option, and are strongly encouraged to request a PHL CAB and TRACON checkout from the PHL FC when they have time, and will be accepted based on the availability at PHL. Although this isn’t strictly required, you’ll need to do it before reaching Center level. We also recommend requesting the Intro To TRACON session if you have not done it in the last 12 months. The session is completely revamped and now includes us teaching you approach types that you may not ever have learned before. RNAV GPS, RNP and VOR approaches? You have the chance to practice them too!

If you request to do any of these sessions, this is not a way for us to punish or fail you, it’s an opportunity to expand on your existing skills!

Advanced TRACON

All S3s (existing and new) following the completion of the ITT program are offered 2 brand new courses of optional additional training: Advanced Radar Training (ART) and TRACON Skills Enhancement Workshop (TSEW).

These 2 programs are designed to fill the gap between obtaining your S3 rating and progressing to your major airport. While not required, these programs provide a multitude of training scenarios previously untaught that we’ve noticed students struggle with. If hearing the word SVFR, VFR on top, coordination, and practice approaches trigger a negative emotional response then we’ve got the programs for you! TSEW is where we teach you the skills to maximize your arrival rate. Things like punching the gap, scanning, seeing ahead, opposing down winds, and so much more! Old and new S3s alike will be able to schedule these sessions at their leisure after the completion of ITT.

Visiting Controllers

Existing visiting controllers will follow the paths outlined above. New visiting controllers, however, will have a slightly different path. Any new visiting controller with an S2 rating or above, will go through our existing written GRP competency checks, but will also have to go through a practical competency check, done at PHL. S2 students will go through a quick session to verify that they can do the basic requirements such as a clearance, and deal with pattern work etc. and S3 students and above will also be required to demonstrate their ability to do TRACON work, again at PHL, using the PHL SOP. Although the scenarios are not designed to be difficult, if a student were to fail, you have one more chance to pass in order to become a visitor.

Passing the visitor checks, will allow visitors to work any minor airport in ZNY, including Philadelphia, and they will then move directly to a major airport, assigned at random.

(Click here to view Full-Size version of flowchart)

Transfer Controllers

Transfer controllers will go through a similar set of familiarization checks that visitors go through, up to their current level and will be allowed to work minor airports up to their current level, including PHL. If the transfer controller is an S3 or above, they will move directly to a major N90 airport assigned at random, after their initial checks.


  • Q: Is PHL now a minor airport?
    A: No. PHL is still a major (designated) airport, although in our effort to be more open: We have discussed designating PHL a minor airport in the long run, but this will not happen in 2021.
  • Q: I’m an S3 student with two major facilities. What happens to me? 
    A: You have the option to request a refresher ITT and a PHL checkout session. Other than that, you’ll continue on your existing major path, except you no longer need a complete fourth major facility at PHL.
  • Q: I’m an S2 student. What happens to me? 
    A: You have the option to request a PHL checkout session, allowing you to work both your existing major CAB, and the PHL cab when you want. You’ll move into the new flow starting at your ITT session.
  • Q: I’m an existing visitor. Is PHL now a minor airport allowing me to work it without a cert?
    A: No. PHL is still a major, and need a certification to work it.


If you have further questions, concerns or want more information, contact members of training staff, or submit a support ticket using the Support Tool. You may also ask questions during the town hall on Sunday! More information is available here: ZNY Q1 Town Hall.

We have great faith in the new training progression, and we hope you will enjoy it!

Cameron Bristol,
ZNY Training Administrator

Author: Cameron Bristol | Posted: 2021-02-23 12:00:00 (Updated at 2021-02-23 23:47:54)

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